Have you ever wondered what it takes to leave your homeland and follow your passions? For Collarts Music students Mahran Majid and Yazan Saif, moving away from the beauty of the Maldives gave them the courage and inspiration to focus on music in a way they never knew possible. Performing for Cultural Diversity Week, Zan and Mahran performed a Maldivian song in Dhivehi, the language commonly spoken on the islands. Catching up with the duo, we asked them about their experience at Collarts and why performing the song rung true to them.
Hi Zan and Mahran, thanks for chatting with me! What are you studying at Collarts?
Yazan: I’m doing Music Production, it’s my second year.
Mahran: I’m doing Music Production too, but it’s my first trimester.
So did you two meet through Collarts?
Yazan: No actually, we knew each other back home and then I moved here to study, so we were apart for some time. Mahran just moved here recently.
Mahran: Yeah, I moved to Australia in February to start studying here at Collarts. We’re both originally from the Maldives, a series of islands near Sri Lanka and close to India.
“It’s interesting, people don’t realise that the Maldives is its own country with its own language, its own traditions.”
That’s wonderful. So what song did you perform for Cultural Diversity Week?
Mahran: We chose to sing a song from one of the Maldives most popular bands of all time. Back home, they would be one of those bands everyone knows and loves.
Yazan: Yeah, the song is called ‘Thakurah Baheh’ and it would be considered very popular with people, but the genre itself is not pop music.
So is it more a traditional song than a radio single?
Mahran: Yeah! Plus, I don’t think there are many original songs like that from the Maldives. Zero Degree Atoll is the band’s name, and they created this one album that blew up in the Maldives. At the time, everyone was listening to it. It was so well thought-out. The story behind the songs is that they actually went around to all the islands and recorded sounds of the sea, the waves, and the shells.
Yazan: At the time, it was different. Nobody in the Maldives had done anything like that before.
Mahran: Yeah, and the songs were usually talking about the way of life for the islands, the way they used to live in the past travelling the seas.
That sounds super interesting. Tell me more about the song.
Mahran: Yeah, the song we chose to sing is about giving advice to a sailor who is about to go out to sea. We have our own language called Dhivehi, so the song is sung in that. It’s interesting, people don’t realise that the Maldives is its own country with its own language, its own traditions. And we also have dialects in our language, which is funny—there’s 400 thousand of us, but then from the North to the South, we speak in different ways.
“The people were so nice and Collarts has helped me realise my passions… I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”
In terms of your own music, do you collaborate together?
Yazan: We do sometimes. We jam together a lot. But I think we work on our own stuff just as much too. I’m still personally trying to finalise everything. I’m into a lot of music, but lately I’ve been listening to a lot soul and funk from back in the day, like D’Angelo.
Mahran: I’m still finding my own sound too. I was in a cover band for five years before I came to study at Collarts, and we were just covering so many things, with everything from Lady Gaga to Pink Floyd. We had so many different songs we had to go from. It’s so hard to decide what style I want to go to. But I guess more acoustic and indie is what I’m compelled to and consider my style.
What have you loved about Collarts so far?
Yazan: The whole thing has been a highlight and I’, really enjoying it. Even living here has been really different and I’m super happy.
Mahran: Yeah, culture shock maxed out. The word that comes to mind for when I first came here was Blissed. I was blissed out. Everything was just so good. The people were so nice and Collarts has helped me realise my passions—like, we don’t even have music colleges. To see everything Collarts had, in a place you can use was just breathtaking. Collarts gives us a chance to experience all these things and it’s just amazing. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.